Saturday, November 22, 2008

A woman of courage

Pavagad (Tumkur district): This is the story of a woman with courage who took on the establishment and fought for self -respect.
Nagamma, a woman from the Handi Koracha community, was born in Pavagada in Tumkur district. At the age of 14, she was married to Narayanappa from Ananthpur in Andhra Pradesh. They had four children. One day, he died of a mysterious stomach -ache. As her parents –in- law were not willing to take care of her, the widow thought she will come back to her parents in Pavagada. However, she came to know a few weeks later that her parents -in -law had sold her to Maddaleti, a rich pig -rearer. He had paid Rs 32,000 to buy Nagamma. When Maddaleti came to take her away, she protested. She was the first person in the community to protest against the evil custom.
Sogadu Venkatesh, a social worker from the Urikala Koracha community brought this to the notice of leaders during an election rally in 2004. Former minister B T Lalitha Naik who was addressing the rally, condemned the practice and vowed to fight against it.
The news then hit headlines and the government was forced to make some announcements. It promised her a house, loan to buy pigs and other benefits. However, no promise has come true till now.
The media exposure added to Nagamma’s problems. Police arrested Maddaleti and another of her relatives. But the community forced Nagamma to bail them out. She had to pay a bond of Rs 12,000 to get them released from jail. Once free, they demanded that she go with them as the old purchase agreement was still valid. Nagamma then released herself from their clutches by paying them Rs 42,000. For this, she took hand loans from friends and relatives. She still keeps paying back the loan.
Nagamma makes and sells palm leaf brooms for a living. Since her brooms sell at Rs 4, it seems she has to sell at least 10,000 brooms to completely repay her loan.
On Wednesday, Nagamma was making brooms in front of her hut. She laughed at questions about the infamous sale that took place four years ago. ``I am tired of repeating the story in front of visitors,’’ she said.
She has managed to marry off two of her four daughters. Lakshmi, the third daughter is in high school. ``The last one dropped off as she was not interested,’’ Nagamma said.
The only sign of government intervention in Nagamma’s life is the bicycle given to her daughter in school. The land on which her hut stands, belongs to a farmer who has stopped cultivating it as it is barren. There is no tapped water anywhere in the vicinity. The children spend their nights under starlight.
However, it seems charms of modern times are hard to resist. Nagamma’s first daughter, also called Nagamma, has named her daughter Shreesha.
The Tumkur district legal services authority organized a legal awareness camp for the community in R Hosakote village in Pavgad taluk in September last year. A team of officers including the assistant commissioner, district welfare officer, district animal husbandry officer, district officials of the SC/ST development corporation and backward classes development corporation came to the programme. They asked the community to stop such practices and promised welfare measures. They collected nearly 300 applications for help. Not one promise was met, Venkatesh said.
Venkatesh recalled an interesting incident during the programme. According to him, when principal district and sessions judge Krishna Bhat was speaking, a woman came to the stage and said that while they were talking about selling of women after they are widowed, she was sold while her husband was still alive.

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